Saturday, 16 June 2012

The Psychiatrist and The Proctologist

Two doctors, a psychiatrist and a proctologist, opened an office in a small town and put up a sign reading: "Dr. Smith and Dr. Jones: Hysterias and Posteriors".

The town council was not happy with the sign, so the doctors changed it to read: "Schizoids and Hemorrhoids."

This was not acceptable to the council either, so in an effort to satisfy the council, they changed the sign to "Catatonics and High Colonics."
No go.

Next, they tried: "Manic Depressives and Anal Retentives."
Thumbs down again.

Then came: "Minds and Behinds"
Still, no good.

Another attempt resulted in: "Lost Souls and Butt Holes."
Unacceptable to the town council... again!

So they tried: "Analysis and Anal Cysts."
Not a chance. Too graphic, said the council.

"Nuts and Butts?"
Definitely not.

"Freaks and Cheeks?"
Shot down again

"Loons and Moons?" 
Forget it.

Almost at their end of thinking capacity, the doctors finally came up with: "Dr. Smith and Dr. Jones: Odds and Ends."
And everyone was happy.

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When I heard the story of the Ngong’ plane crash earlier yesterday, I was quite shocked. Perhaps it was because it was an unexpected occurrence. That is how death works. A cold master, a hunter out on a prowl out in a creek where there is a plethora of prey. Even when we think we expect it, we are left aghast in its wake. Some fear it, others convince themselves that they can face it. Fact is we all revere it. It is what makes you, me and people like Kim Jong’ Il stand on level ground, the only difference- time. A few people however commented that it wasn’t such a huge loss. Considering role models like the late Wangari Maathai and the late Michuki, I very much concur. But first, I would like to talk about how my late grandfather knew one George Muthengi Kinuthia Saitoti.

My grandfather was born in the late nineteenth century. A short bio of him- he was a son of the soil, raised an orphan, nurtured by hardship and matured in life. He had lived through the birth and making of this country and been under all the three regimes. He was a humble man, not well traveled albeit he was revered amongst his equals. I did not know him much as a person, but I got to spend quite some time with the man during his last days. I liked his opinions though. They were seldom well informed (I don’t blame him), but I found them rather interesting.

In the current government for instance, he knew three personalities- Kibaki, Raila and Saitoti (or Toitoti as he used to call him). The first two were familiar to him due to their positions in government, and their tribal affiliations. The man was born in the era of Gikuyu and Mumbi and the half a dozen or so clans so again: I don’t blame him. Toitoti- well let’s just say it was one familiar name and face. This, of course, is from the time Toitoti took the lime light on KBC radio news as ‘Makamu wa Rais’, always taking the second headline (as per traditions at the time). Anyhow, the television era didn’t make much sense to my grandfather.

Once in a while as we were sitted in the living room watching nine o’clock news; my grandfather would wonder how Toitoti could appear twice on national television within a period of two hours. He couldn’t conceive the idea of that being even possible. He would ask me whether this guy had any idea that normal people would be hanging around their families at that time of day in readiness to retire rather than moving around hell knows where with throngs of people tagging along. He concluded that this Tiototi fellow (and the others around him) were indeed quite peculiar.    

Another time, while Toitoti was being questioned vehemently by the first lady over the laxity of his ministry in managing disasters such as the Sachangwan fire, my grandfather could not help but notice Toitoti’s face on telly. In the background of his portrait was the footage from the scene of the fire, flames and all. My grandfather kept wondering whether he was burning for real. His worries were however allayed when footage of Toitoti making comments over the same was played later. The mzee could not however let it slide just yet. He went on to remark, as he watched, that it was no wonder he was smelling smoke in the ambience.

My grandfather aside (God rest his soul), my deep condolences go to the families of all the bereaved. Those who passed on had people who depended on them. I especially feel for the relatives of the young pilots and the security detail. The late Orwa Ojode was still young in the rings of leadership, his passing was untimely. Perhaps there was still some potential in him to take the country places.

Lastly, I do understand that ours is a setting where we are obliged by culture to exalt the deceased by sometimes unrealistic proportions. However, the media’s protracted story about the late Saitoti’s impact in this country and the gap his sudden absence creates leaves a lot to be desired. The truth always stands astute. As we come to terms with his demise, perhaps it is good for all to introspect on how we would want to be remembered once the inevitable happens. As far as I am concerned, I know I am nothing close to a saint. But if I live my whole life like a turd, and without apologies or regrets; I hope someone at my funeral will have the honesty and the balls to throw a roll of cheap toilet paper in my pit right after my casket.

May God bless Kenya.

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Friday, 15 June 2012


The deputy director of this hospital wanted to communicate major changes in policy to all the consultants on call. He summoned them all to a meeting in the board room. Having facilitated the building of the new trauma theater, the orthopedic surgery team was on his side. They even told him to break a leg. After the meeting was over, this is how the other consultants responded.

The ophthalmologists pondered over it. They could see the deputy director’s point of view, but they concluded that his ideologies were myopic. The radiologists on the other hand thought it was all in black and white. They could see right through the whole thing.

The immunologists knew that the idea favored some departments more than others. They got quite defensive over its implementation. The dermatologists however wanted more time to think it through. They didn’t want to make any rash decisions.

The gynecologists felt that the deputy director was a crafty man. In trying to put a finger into the matter, they concluded that his ideas were rather slippery. The obstetrics team on the other hand found the newly communicated policy hard to conceive. However, they agreed to labor over it before airing their final take.

The urologists were annoyed that the deputy director didn’t look well into their affairs. They pissed over the whole idea. The pharmacists were just as aggrieved. They inwardly hoped that someday soon the deputy director would get a dose of his own medicine. The pediatric physicians however thought urologists and pharmacists were acting rather childish: they even asked them to ‘grow up.’

The cardiologists thought that the deputy director’s concerns were heartfelt. They were all for the new policy. The ENT specialists however could hear none of it. They hoped the deputy director would swallow his words sooner than later.

The gastroenterologists had a gut feeling that some things did not quite add up. They had found the new policy hard to digest. The proctologists felt that the deputy director's ideas were rather constipated. In fact, something didn’t quite smell right.

The neurosurgeons could not wrap their minds around the issue. The neurologists thought the director had a lot of nerve. On consulting the psychiatric team however, they unanimously agreed that the new policy was insane. The chest medicine specialists concurred with this view, after all: the deputy director was asking too much of them. They really needed a breather.
While plastic surgeons felt that the new policy could use a facelift, their general surgeon counterparts had already dissected the idea into a simplified version. They were all for it. The worst reaction however came from the pathologists. After the deputy director finished his speech, the head of the pathology department stood up and started marching out in protest. Just as he got to the front door, he turned around facing the deputy director and said, “Over my dead body!"

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Monday, 11 June 2012

Old sure ain't gold!

A 90-year-old man said to his doctor, "I have never felt better. I have an 18 year old bride, very hot, who is now pregnant with my child. What do you think about that?"

After carefully considering this man's question, the doctor answered, "I have an elderly friend of mine who was a jolly good hunter: never missed a season. One day he was in a bit of a rush to go out for a hunt and he accidentally picked his umbrella instead of his gun. When he got to the woods, he saw a rabbit sitting beside the stream. He raised his umbrella and went, 'bang, bang' and the rabbit fell dead. What do you think of that?"

The old man said, "I'd say somebody else killed the rabbit."

The doctor replied, "My point exactly."

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Tuesday, 5 June 2012


After moments of analyzing my routine activities in internal medicine rotations, I have come to a conclusive pattern that briefly describes my view of what happens. Imagine someone suffering from chronic constipation, so bad that he spends a week without ever having to flush a toilet. Then he has nightmares on Sundays about how his week is going to start all because Monday morning is going to be literally crappy: I’m talking excruciating, rectum-wrenching crappy. That, my friends is what my internal medicine rotation has been like so far. That should explain my use of the word ‘annals’ whose homophone, ‘anals’, is (appropriately) the plural of anus. Moving on…

So last Monday my colleagues and I make it to the ward early in the morning, just in time to (very uncomfortably) ‘void’ our ‘constipated bowels.’ Half-way into the session, while doing our best, the consultant responsible for overseeing the entire process gets so pissed off that he walks out on us. From his side of the view, we totally lacked initiative hence he felt had wasted his precious time coming to teach us. From my side, things looked way different.

For starters, me thinks that raising enough money to pay school fees and showing up for classes and ward rounds on time counts for at least 30% initiative. Complement that with risking your health while in the wards clerking patients, reading volumes of jargon for your examinations and being daring enough to stand and talk to people who salivate at any opportunity to demean you and you have 90% initiative. The 10% on top technically makes you a nerdy medical zombie. Back to the Monday saga, I think his demeanor was uncalled for. Maybe our dear consultant was just having a bad day: I suppose it was that time of the… I’ll shut up now.

In retrospect, it appears that internal medicine is an entirely different faction of medicine altogether. For starters, while surgeons walk around tall, canoodling their even taller egos, the ‘shorter’ physicians prefer to consistently rub in the fact that they really use their brains. That brings me to lesson number one of Internal Medicine: Forget all you learnt in surgery, and (preferably) put your thinking caps on. If you don’t have one, please borrow.

Second lesson I have learnt since I started rotating there is that your sole duty as a medic is to make your consultant happy. When he shows you how to do something, DO NOT let your creativity get the better of you. Mind you, I hold the opinion that creativity is for surgeons- refer to lesson number one. Learn to repeat what they say, verbatim. When they yell jump, hell; find your way to Pluto if you have to. That is the only way you will have a smooth ride in the wards.

Third lesson: this, in reference to the answering of questions. When in doubt, mumble. When standing close to a person who is in doubt and you think you know the right answer (and you are daring enough), mumble the wrong thing and try not to laugh while you are at it (yeah, I said it). It should help the one in the line of fire to think in the opposite direction faster (ideally). This is if they have sufficient info. Otherwise, they may repeat the bull you just whispered leaving them to take one (or more) for the team, and you are officially branded 'mean'. This brings me to lesson number four.

Your ego can take much more than you think, unless of course you are an Emo. If, for whatever reason, you go against lesson number two, brace your ego (and your nuts too, if you have them) for a good bashing. The consultants can and will come at you with an arsenal of insults, from something equivalent to a slap from an army sergeant, to a Scud missile. Protect your ego with your all. Otherwise, you can picture yourself rushing your emaciated and now traumatized ego to the casualty after it has suffered severe embarrassment. 

Lastly, lesson number five: it’s never that serious. After all is said and done, bottom line is that you are there to learn. It is said that sarcasm is a good teaching tool and that it actually reinforces memory. How true that is, I do not know. Bashing or no bashing however, do your best and try and take it all in your stride. After all, what's the worst that can happen? 

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